A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with four private citizens onboard, lifts off in this time-exposure photo from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39-A, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
UPDATED 10:50 AM PT – Thursday, September 16, 2021
SpaceX launched the first all-civilian spacecraft to enter Earth’s orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Dubbed the Resilience, the Falcon 9 vessel took off from the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday.
While calling themselves the Inspiration4, the astronauts will stay in Earth’s orbit for three days and conduct research “to advance human health on Earth” and for future space flights. This launch is the first to allow civilians to go beyond suborbital levels in space.
Benjamin Reed, SpaceX’s Director of Crew Mission Management, gave reference points for the crew’s journey.
“This is significant and historic because it’s going to be the highest that any humans have gone into orbit since the Hubble servicing missions,” he explained. “And, in fact, they’ll be above the current orbit of the Hubble and above the current orbit of the International Space Station.”
The private citizen crew consists of a variety of backgrounds, including an internet executive, a jet pilot and an engineer. Hayley Arceneaux, the chief medical officer, is the youngest American to go to space. The astronaut described the research that will be conducted while in the cosmos.
“I’m so excited about the medical research that we’re going to be doing on this flight and we’re going to be collecting a lot of swabs to learn about the microbiome, how that changes in flight,” she stated. “We’re going to be performing ultrasounds, evaluate for fluid shifts as well as performing some cognitive tests in setting radiation effects of going to our high altitude.”
Arceneaux is a survivor of childhood bone cancer. Additionally, the mission will raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The Inspiration4 has a fundraising goal of $200 million in donations for the hospital.
SpaceX was founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and has assisted in several government missions. However, space tourism and a Mars landing are not outside of the company’s future aspirations.
Mission Control plans for the Inspiration4 crew to land safely off the coast of Florida after completing their objectives.